How much does an RFID solution cost? The short answer: “It depends.”
The cost of RFID is determined by several factors — but without knowing the size and specific details of your environment, what you’ll be tracking, or the type of system you need, it’s impossible to provide even a close estimate of what your cost would be. At best, a Google search may turn up numbers on component cost or outdated or oversimplified estimates for breakdowns of RFID solution pricing structure, but that search will likely result in more questions than answers: Do you need passive tags or active tags? Handheld readers, or fixed? What frequency will you need?
Roughly speaking, pricing is based on the size of the area you want covered, and the granularity of coverage you’re looking for. These factors help determine the number of read locations for your application, as well as the number of devices, type of technology, and the amount of involvement that will be required from professional services.
Again, while figures on component costs may be widely available, in order for the numbers to be meaningful, you have to know exactly what you’re looking for. The cost of tags depends on both the type and quantity you need. Passive tags are the least expensive, starting at just 10 cents. Active tags, on the other hand, can cost up to 20 dollars each. Readers can be found at all price-points, from just a few hundred dollars up to several thousand dollars, depending on whether you need handheld readers or fixed readers. Likewise, software licenses vary in cost and functionality.
There are also intangible factors that contribute to the cost of RFID — factors that are nevertheless essential to the success of your RFID solution. These intangibles include business process analysis, site surveys, implementation, and troubleshooting, all of which fall under the professional services umbrella. Unlike hardware and software costs, there’s no easy way blindly estimate for professional services, which often end up recognized as the most valuable investment you can make in any RFID solution.
RFID Solution Snapshots
Because RFID solutions are scalable and customizable to meet the specific needs of many different industries, environments, and use cases, no two RFID solutions are identical. But in the interest of doing our very best to help you determine if RFID is right for you, here are three examples of solutions that represent what you can expect from different price points.
$5K – $10K
We offer an RFID Starter Kit – a basic, entry-level asset tracking solution. Unlike our next solution examples, this one isn’t a full RFID solution, in the true, end-to-end sense of the word; instead, it’s a system that uses RFID to identify items. It comes with an asset tracking software application license, two handheld readers, and the ability to use RFID to tag and identify assets. With this RFID-based solution, you can create a database of your assets that you can update on location/”in the field” using your handheld/mobile RFID readers. You can also use the “finder” mode of the handheld device to search for missing assets as you scan a room or location.
$75K – $110K
A mid-range RFID application, such as a returnable tote-tracking solution, generally starts at $75,000. A solution at this cost would encompass a single area, offering you coverage of up to 20 internal trackable locations or checkpoints, two external doors, and up to five dock doors. This also would include a software license to support up to five devices, as well as support from a Professional Services team.
This price point would apply to applications much larger than those previously described; think luggage tracking, with a hardware and software framework setup to enable visibility throughout a hospitality venue. At this level, a complete RFID solution would include infrastructure to support up to 600 read locations, 150-200 readers, software licenses to support 200 devices, and significant engagement from Professional Services.
Cost vs Value
As you can see, there’s a large difference in size, scope, and cost between these three solution samples — that’s the nature of RFID solutions. While it is possible to purchase a device-only solution, most projects are much more involved and complex. The jump from $10,000 to $75,000 represents the difference in complexity between a small, device-only system and a large custom solution.
There’s no way to sugarcoat the cost of RFID solutions — they can get expensive. But given the right application, the value of an RFID system can quickly outweigh the cost. The value of RFID should not be anticipated or calculated only in terms of the money you’ll save. To be fair, the value of RFID is more frequently found in operational improvements and in your ability to better manage your most valuable assets. It’s about making your resources more efficient. If 10 employees can do the work of 20, then you increase productivity without adding to your payroll — reaching ROI significantly faster.
RFID doesn’t always make sense for every situation, and this is why most RFID solutions providers have an assessment process to determine if RFID is the right solution for your needs. Want to know if RFID is the right technology for your tracking project? Contact us today.